Going Social to Get Local: Engaging Your Community

This was the Second Program in "The Library as Community Center" series and was originally held on March 28, 2012.

Presenters were three members of the Lawrence Public Library Social Media Team.Susan Brown, Jennifer Cook and Rachel Smalter Hall.Members of Lawrence Public Library's social media team will offer an overview of how they have developed a strong social media presence and engaged their community.  As coordinator of the library's social media efforts, marketing director Susan Brown will offer a broad overview of how the library got started in social media, what their policies and strategies are, and some lessons learned along the way.  She'll also offer some bold answers to frequently asked questions about social media, particularly aimed at those who are just getting started and trying to build a case for the importance of social media.

Jennifer Cook, children's librarian and leader of the Facebook group, will offer an inside look at just what LPL posts on FB and why.  She'll talk about how she recruits members to the team, identifies their interests, and organizes their efforts.  Jennifer will also talk about developing content for Facebook and measuring success.  Attendees will be sure to enjoy her Hall of Fame/Hall of Shame FB posts as well as her Extreme Makeover: FB Edition, where she reviews an unsuccessful post and shows how it could be made better.

Rachel Smalter Hall, adult programs librarian and Twitter team leader, will talk about how the library has developed a strong following on Twitter and how it sustains and engages its audience there.  Rachel will provide an in-depth look an not just what LPL says on Twitter, but why they say it.  Attendees will learn about the power of hashtags, cool tools like Hoostuite, and the ways that LPL tweeters have blurred personal and professional lines to achieve an authentic social voice - #pbrbookclub, anyone?

They shared a lot of information about using social media and presented many appealing ideas. But they also emphasized that using social media successfully takes planning, time, teamwork and effective ongoing management. It is better to develop it slowly than to try to do everything at once. Susan recommended a book called "Doing Social Media So it Matters: A Librarian's Guide" by Laura Solomon, saying it was extremely helpful to librarians wanting to develop this field.

The benefits to a library match the investment. Using social media allows the library to inform and engage the community, to respond to customers, to promote services, programs and collections. It helps community residents become aware of the library as an information hub, an essential destination and a community center. It helps the librarians build mutually beneficial relationships all over the community.

Jennifer shared many ideas on using Facebook effectively to share information about the library and encourage feedback from customers. Rachel shared ways to use Twitter effectively. Then she talked about using it to build relationships with library users who will become library supporters.

One of the things that impressed the workshop participants was the use of humor and playfulness in the ways that the Lawrence library uses social media to interact with community residents. The playfulness elicits response from the community in a way that simply sharing information would not. But this communication must still be honest, respectful, appreciative and appropriate. It is not wise to post anything on social media that could not be said at a service desk.

Even if they understood the benefits in partnerships, publicity, advocacy, and support, many librarians have considered that developing social media is a lot of work that must be done by already busy librarians. The Lawrence social media team did not deny this. They emphasized the need for a team effort. But they taught that playfulness could be considered an important professional tool, which is a nice idea. And they did succeed in demonstrating that social media could be a great deal of fun.